Alang - What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word Alang? I am sure it would be “The World’s biggest ship breaking yard”.

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In this write-up, I would like to share my personal views on the changing situation of the ship recycling industry at Alang. Things have to be looked upon through a telescope and not a microscope.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, because of their naturally favorable tidal conditions, are successful in using beaching technique for ship breaking which is more cost effective and less capital intensive. Ship breaking industry plays a crucial role in these economies of South Asian countries.

Now talking particularly about Alang, which is located in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, is a renowned place where hundreds of ships are scrapped each year. Gujarat is privileged as both ship building and ship recycling industry have flourished amongst other industries here.

Ship breaking or ship recycling or ship dismantling is basically a way of ship disposal involving the breaking of ships for extracting raw materials mainly scrap and selling or re-using its parts.

Every ship has a life cycle with respect to its operation. When a ship is not economically viable anymore, it would be scrapped or recycled. As the scrapping process leads to or releases plenty of hazardous material, due care is required to manage the wastes with respect to health, safety and environment as well as national and international regulations.

Since 1990s Alang-Sosiya was established as the largest ship recycling yard in the world. At present Alang has 120 active ship recycling yards which extract equipment for recycling and reuse in various types of scraps.

Ship recycling industry since long is famous for its unacceptable conditions for the workers and environment due to causing irreversible damage and pollution to the nearby local environment.

  • Workers working in most of ship recycling facilities are unaware of health and safety aspects like use of proper PPE (personal protective equipment), they are exposed to manifold hazardous substances.
  • With no containment equipment, the facilities have nothing to identify or handle hazardous wastes or large spills which are a threat to marine ecology and environment where are ships are recycled.
  • Lastly, the hazardous substances which are discharged during ship recycling can lead to pollution and permanent damage to the surroundings.

The above conditions have started changing recently. To overcome the negative effects of shipbreaking, green ship recycling has been introduced across the world. This method has helped to a great extent to reduce the negative inmpacts and risks associated with ship recycling. For instance impacts of waste materials being discharged during shipbreaking to the beaches can´t be found in “green ship recycling yards” anymore. Thus in-turn helped reducing the negative impact on the environment.

Apart from this, The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships of IMO (International Maritime Organization), which has been adopted in May 2009 , and EU Ship Recycling Regulation No 1257/2013 aim both to ensure that the process of ship recycling doesn’t pose any risk to the human health and safety or to the environment. Hence, change is happening in many yards of this sector but it would require a positive response, demand and appreciation for moving further forward with all yards. Doubts may undermine further spreading.

The Indian government is also looking into this sector very deeply, proactively and is taking numerous measures for the same.

Legislation has been drafted by Indian Government to endorse the IMO's Hong Kong Convention (HKC) on safe ship recycling. Also, off the 120 yards in Alang, about 55 till now have achieved HKC compliance certificates, while 15 more are undergoing audit for certification. Which means more than half of all facilities have significantly improved.

In September 2017, India has signed a loan deal with JICA – Japan International Cooperation Agency worth $76 million to modernize environmental protection of ship recycling yards at Alang. These funds are aimed to help Alang match with international standards on ship recycling and would upgrade seventy yards over the next 5 years. Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) would be executing this project and it will end in 2022 probably.

“Alang and other places in South Asia have for years been criticized for poor standards – and rightly so, but, a positive development has begun and this should be supported not undermined”, said ECSA President Niels Smedegaard, “Whilst there are yards where improvements are clearly necessary, others have already taken the lead in changing their recycling practices to reflect advanced modern standards.”

ECSA has fully supported the request of several large ship owners to audit and assess for themselves the ship recycling practices in Alang.

“This is not a matter of lowering standards, but rather to the contrary a way of rewarding those recycling facilities that have now raised their standards to match those of leading ship owners”, concluded ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, “By committing tonnage to responsible facilities in Alang, these ship owners also commit staff and resources to monitor and share best practices, effectively shaping the future of the region.”

In last few years there has been a tremendous improvement in the HSE standards at the ship recycling yards in Alang. This in-turn has resulted in the implementation of SOP’s (standard operating procedures) at the ship recycling yards like safe-for-hot work, working-at-height, confined-entry, safe-for-entry to name a few and improved infrastructure like cranes to lift heavy weight items, impermeable flooring for secondary and tertiary cutting, storm water drainage and collection system, extensive training for the workforce, documentaion etc. These changes have given a robust platform to achieve safe and sound ship recycling practices.

Since 2003, the Training and Welfare Complex operated by GMB - the Gujarat Maritime Board has been in operation in Alang. This complex is used to provide education and training to ship recycling yard workers based on environmentally sound operations and safety. A trained workforce is of prime importance to achieve accident and incident free ship recycling process.

Under the flagship program Sagarmala, the Ministry has sanctioned 30 crore rupees in 2016-17, of which 10 crore rupees has been released for the skill development of the workers based on health training and occupational safety. The 12-day skills training program has been made mandatory for any worker before he can begin work in any shipyard. Basic safety training has become a must at Alang ship recycling yards.

The government of India has strictly prohibited child labor and each and every worker has been insured under ESIC - Employees’ State Insurance Corporation. Some of the yard owners help with a housing facility designed as per ILO standards for workers.

It becomes a dire need that the workers of the yard should be provided quality training as it ensures how the ship recycling process goes. Training Program by GSR Sentinels (leading ship recycling consulting firm) has been of great help in improving safety standards of the workers.

The ship recycling industry is advancing rapidly but we cannot expect any miracle overnight. Individual people have started moving towards more improvements, developing infrastructure, the way of operations, training of workers, improved facilities, more awareness of health & safety of workers and environmental concerns. Praising every small step would boost the change that has happened and push more to follow the good examples.

Continuous improvements and procedural upgradations on the recycling yards at Alang, Gujarat have changed the face of industry and owners of the ship have begun recognizing these positive changes. Use of technical documents like the Ship Recycling Plan (SRP), the Ship Recycling Facility Plan (SRFP) for every yard and the Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) for each and every ship in the eye of HKC has to a great extent improved the overall recycling process on yards working according to HKC.

Presently all the recycling yards at Alang have sub-contractors approved by the government to manage its waste expelled during the recycling process. Also, disposal of special hazardous wastes including electronic waste, batteries, cables, bio-medical waste, bilge water, asbestos, ozone-depleting substances, etc. and removal of asbestos, oily waste such as sand, rags, sludge, etc. is most often taken care of by sub-contractors.

After a thorough inspection by the officials, decontamination certificate is issued by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and cutting permission by the GMB - Gujarat Maritime Board is given for each recycling ship. This is mandatory before starting any cutting work. Specialized approved agencies are working to issue naked light certificates (like hot work permits) and permit for confined space entry.

Although we cannot compare west to the east (that is developed country standards to the developing countries), you cannot expect things to work here in India as it worked in Europe, America. The pace of work and standards has an unmatched difference. India has shown more than “signs of improvement” in terms of ship recycling industry and what has been achieved provides one or the other best practice guidance for developed countries as well.

There has always been tussle as some ship owners think first do the changes and come to the standards, show your USP and take a discount on the prices of the ship, and then get appreciated. But on the other hand, there have been few who have taken the efforts and did this which was not thought off. Such foresighted yards have gone strides and are flag bearers of the change with a positive attitude to also infuse other ship recyclers that things can be achieved. The purview of looking at things, being foresighted and taking matters of macro importance into consideration counts a lot.

There is always one leader, who takes the first step ahead, later on seeing tested and trail people follow. Gone are the days when people merely worked just for profits from one quarter to another, today the stake holders look at a much wider horizon and other things as well, a sign for believing in a multi-facet development.

India has now begun to be recognized as the preferred destination for ‘green’ recycling services by the ship owners. In the coming years this would probably increase further with the Chinese market closing for foreign flagged ships post December 2018 and Turkey currently facing difficulties due to the disputes with US. However, this is yet not clear what steps would the European Commission take on including Indian yards in its much awaited list of approved recycling facilities.

Ship Owners should see for themselves that change is happening, sometimes slow, sometimes pretty quick, and evaluate the individual ship recycling yards on their own. Once satisfied they will hopefully send their ships for recycling. If they want they can employ experts which offer support for their approach including third party supervision when their ship recycling project is going on.

Alang is witnessing the positive change and improvements, which speaks for itself. The mindset of working should be changed as Alang is now moving generally towards safe and green ship recycling and many recyclers are completely ready to show the outsiders their developments and achievements.

The young generation is working hand in hand with the oldies, taking benefits of their guidance and experience which would help Alang to move even further towards safe ship recycling industry.

Let’s come together to improve the Alang ship recycling industry…..

 

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.

Above article has been initially published in Rohit Agarwal LinkedIn account and is reproduced here with author's kind permission.


Written by Rohit Agarwal,

Mr. Rohit Agarwal has a vast experience in the Alang Ship recycling industry and has seen it all over the many years that he has been involved in this industry; He has been a key player in influencing the HKC compliant yards in Alang and has a hands-on knowledge of the local working conditions.